In Paper Tigers, a documentary showcased in last year’s Sundance Film Festival, filmmaker James Redford explores what life is like for six troubled students at an alternative high school in Walla Walla, Washington.
Paper Tigers premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival in May 2015. The Park Record incorrectly stated the film screened at the Sundance Film Festival.
Robert Redford’s son and the director of Resilience talks about the near-death experience that inspired him to make social impact films.
Documentaries are no walk in the park. They take a lot of time and money; they have a way of making a mockery out of your narrative plans. They must share the attention of an audience that is increasingly losing more and more of it.
Why bother? It’s a good question. For me, I have one simple bar that all my films must clear: an “oh my God!” moment. If a story does not elicit that reaction from deep within my bones, I don’t do it. I count on that sense of awe, concern, wonder, and alarm to carry me through the long haul of making the film. To do otherwise, well—it just seems stupid.
Over one million children are being exposed to a toxicity that frequently leads to emotional and health problems–not to mention serious trouble in school, says filmmaker James Redford. “You can’t hold it, see it or smell it, but it can kill just the same.”
The toxin is the trauma stemming from Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), everything from parental divorce to domestic violence. As Education Lab described last weekend, research shows that ACEs may be driving problem behaviors in thousands of Washington schoolchildren.
When I heard this vignette, I realized the full potential of the documentary Paper Tigers to change how people think about childhood adversity and mobilize them to demand trauma-informed practices and policies—in schools, in healthcare, and beyond. It was a brief encounter on the streets of Columbus, Ohio, between a woman who works on behalf of children in foster care and former Congressman Patrick Kennedy who the afternoon before saw the film at a private, pre-premier in Washington, DC. His response to her words of concern for children whose life circumstances are so difficult was heartfelt agreement that the need is great, adding that these kids face “paper tigers” daily and the stress can be overwhelming. We have to take new approaches that address ACEs and build resiliency, he said.
Paper Tigers will premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) at 7 PM Thursday, May 28, 2015, at the SIFF Cinema Uptown in Seattle, WA. SIFF is the largest and most highly attended festival in the U.S.
Paper Tigers follows a year in the life of an alternative high school in Walla Walla, WA, that has radically changed its approach to disciplining its students, and in the process has become a promising model for how to break the cycles of poverty, violence and disease that affect families. A story about the school was published on this site in 2012: Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, WA, tries new approach to school discipline; suspensions drop 85%.
As research mounts underscoring how ineffective school suspensions are for correcting student misbehavior, a parallel truth bears repeating: Some kids are not easy to handle.
Often, they do a lot more than curse teachers or talk back, as the new film Paper Tigers shows. In it, James Redford (son of Robert) profiles a high school in Walla Walla that was full of kids who’d been kicked out of other programs. They threw chairs. They did drugs. They appeared unreachable.
But when school leaders began to understand the role of trauma in students’ behavior, things changed. Brain-changing trauma isn’t limited to living in a war-torn country or watching your family killed. It can come from something as common as poverty. Or divorce. And it has powerful, long-lasting effects.